The four-part National Geographic series “Secrets of the Whales,” which is executive-produced by James Cameron, debuts on Disney+ on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.
Filmed over three years in 24 locations, it follows five different whale species: Orcas, Humpbacks, Belugas, Narwhals and Sperm Whales.
Sigourney Weaver narrates each episode, detailing unique elements of each species. They all have families, their own languages, and their own rituals, including mourning. We learn about their communication styles, which includes breaching, splashing, and fin slapping.
In the first episode, we watch an Orca matriarch who’s probably 30 years old patrolling the waters off New Zealand. She’s an expert hunter and soon captures a devil ray and shares it with her family.
If you don’t want to see blood in the water, better to skip ahead to the second episode, about Humpbacks. But then you might miss the moment when an Orca tosses a ray to stunned wildlife photographer Brian Skerry, who’s apparently become such a regular, he’s considered one of her kids.
In the second episode, we watch a mother Humpback who traveled more than 4,000 miles to have her baby. We also see whales practicing something called “bubble-net feeding,” in which they work as a team to drive fish to the surface.
What’s possibly even more fascinating is that, we’re told, these whales aren’t part of the same family, but they’ve been coming together for more than 40 years for this annual event.
The narration does use terms like “family” instead of “pod,” most of the time. While not trying for laughs as in Disney’s previous Earth Day release, “Penguins,” it does lean more on the sentimental side than the scientific one.
In Western Australia, we follow a different pod of Humpback whales migrates to Antarctica: As many as 30,000 have been counted migrating together.
We also learn that Humpback males’ mating calls can travel more than 3000 miles and all the males sing the same mating song that they pick up from each other.
As Cameron told CNET of what he hops viewers learn about whales, “They have language, they have music, they have complex social bonds. They have these highly active, very high processing brains, very much like ours.”
Watch the trailer below: